Fr. Z needs help from New Mexico readers

For readers in central New Mexico, I need your help.

From a reader:

I am probably in the very smallest of small minorities reading your blog — I’m an atheist. However, for some reason I happen to be a bit of a social conservative, and really enjoy reading your discussions of tradition and Catholic rites. For the last few weeks I’ve had a lot of fun reading your articles as they come in through Google Reader.

For some time, I’ve been toying with the idea of finding a Church to attend. Mainly because the people that I respect tend to be religious.  [See what a good example can provoke?]

I think that abortion is obviously something evil, sex outside of marriage prevents a fulfilling life, that it’s hard work to be a moral human being, and that Good isn’t relative. Fellow atheists generally don’t feel this way, and they also tend to have silly ideas about the perfectibility of human nature. Besides, I was impressed by the Christian congregation I attended in my youth, and haven’t felt the same sort of sense of community for many years.

I tried to attend a Lutheran church a couple of years ago. I didn’t really feel like I got a great deal from it. Part of it was that I tried to be serious about what I was doing and checked out a book from the library that consisted of several arguments between Erasmus and Luther. I was much more impressed by Erasmus’ writings, and still am. [Good choice.]

I’m interested in finding out more about the Catholic Church, but am a bit worried about walking around the block to meet the pastor at local church … I did a quick Google search for his name and don’t know anything about him beyond the fact that he’s a big fan of Andrew Greeley books, has been quoted in the newspaper saying that abortion is just one issue among a spectrum of "life issues" like capital punishment (not a particularly convincing statement to me), and has also been quoted saying that some Cardinal’s recent statement about evolution was overdoing things. I’m not sure how to put it best, but while I’m attracted to the Catholic Church’s stand on certain issues, I’m not particularly interested in half-baked 1960’s anything-goes theology (the Unitarians are better at that, and wouldn’t even mind the atheism bit).  [Well said!]

I’d appreciate your advice on what I should do, if you have the time.

First,… how very impressed I am by this fellow’s journey.  I too am a convert.  It was a combination of curiosity and the beauty of liturgy which then took me on an intellectual and affective path into the Church.  I remember distinctly knowing that the "Catholic thing" had to be confronted if I was going to be intellectually honest with myself, have a good conscience about the questions I was raising.

Second, I don’t know many priests in that area of the US.  Perhaps you readers could E-MAIL a few names of solid priests who can answer hard questions with patience and charity, (some gray hair is preferred) which I could in turn share with this guy.  DON’T POST THEM HEREE-MAIL them to me.

Third, I could recommend some reading, such as Fr. John Hardon’s catechism, which is what the late Msgr. Schuler used to hook my mind and keep me reading…. but I won’t give a list. 

Fourth, I am always interested in how people handle those moments when they are faced with these questions.  Remember: if Christians are at times tempted to doubt, atheists are tempted to believe.  More than tempted.  Doubts of Christians come from our weakness, our fallen nature or the flaws in our instruction, as well as the enemy of the soul.  Doubts of atheists come from the need we have written into our being, as images of God.

Fifth, I will present also the challenge presented by wiser people than I.   In one of his last public addresses 1 April 2005 in Subiaco, Italy, the day before John Paul II died, and thus shortly before being elected Pope, Joseph Card. Ratzinger issued a challenge to modern man.  He issued a paradoxical challenge to "live as if God exists" whether one believes in Him or not….velut si Deus dareturas if God is a given fact.

in my capacity as believer, I would like to make a proposal to the secularists. At the time of the Enlightenment there was an attempt to understand and define the essential moral norms, saying that they would be valid "etsi Deus non daretur," even in the case that God did not exist. In the opposition of the confessions and in the pending crisis of the image of God, an attempt was made to keep the essential values of morality outside the contradictions and to seek for them an evidence that would render them independent of the many divisions and uncertainties of the different philosophies and confessions. In this way, they wanted to ensure the basis of coexistence and, in general, the foundations of humanity. At that time, it was thought to be possible, as the great deep convictions created by Christianity to a large extent remained. But this is no longer the case[As our election cycle is demonstrating.]

The search for such a reassuring certainty, which could remain uncontested beyond all differences, failed. Not even the truly grandiose effort of Kant was able to create the necessary shared certainty. Kant had denied that God could be known in the realm of pure reason, but at the same time he had represented God, freedom and immortality as postulates of practical reason, without which, coherently, for him no moral behavior was possible.

Does not today’s situation of the world make us think perhaps that he might have been right? I would like to express it in a different way: The attempt, carried to the extreme, to manage human affairs disdaining God completely leads us increasingly to the edge of the abyss, to man’s ever greater isolation from reality. We must reverse the axiom of the Enlightenment and say: Even one who does not succeed in finding the way of accepting God, should, nevertheless, seek to live and to direct his life "veluti si Deus daretur," as if God existed. This is the advice Pascal gave to his friends who did not believe. In this way, no one is limited in his freedom, but all our affairs find the support and criterion of which they are in urgent need.

Above all, that of which we are in need at this moment in history are men who, through an enlightened and lived faith, render God credible in this world. The negative testimony of Christians who speak about God and live against him, has darkened God’s image and opened the door to disbelief. We need men who have their gaze directed to God, to understand true humanity. We need men whose intellects are enlightened by the light of God, and whose hearts God opens, so that their intellects can speak to the intellects of others, and so that their hearts are able to open up to the hearts of others.

 

Intellectual and affective challenge:

Pursue these questions as if God exists… velut si Deus daretur.

UPDATE:

How about South-Central New Mexico… Soccorro area?

Fr. Z needs help from New Mexico readers
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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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21 Responses to Fr. Z needs help from New Mexico readers

  1. totustuusmaria says:

    O my good sir (or madame?), thank you for your touching and humble letter to Fr. Z. I wish that I were able to help you personally, but because I live in the mid-west, I’ll settle for just praying for you. Thank you, however, for taking such beautiful stances on the moral issues. I hope that you find a home in the Catholic Church someday, and that you find many faithful Catholics full of charity.

  2. Agnes B. Bullock says:

    Father, this may be off topic, as I am not from New Mexico. A few weeks ago you posited suspending your blog. Obviously, your blog has born fruit even greater than expected. I will pray for this person in his or her search for the Truth, and that he or she joins the Catholic Church. It took a great deal of moral fortitude and good moral character to even reach out to you for guidance, in this time of trouble.

    What a tribute to you and your earthly efforts to spread the truth and the Faith. Thank you Father for this blog- you have changed and influenced more lives than you will ever know in this life.

  3. Memphis Aggie says:

    Being open minded enough to seriously explore the question of God is rare among atheists; good for you. I was an atheist once, for me faith came on slowly over several years. At first it was only doubt about atheism like Father Z said. Prayer made the difference for me, not that my prayers were anything special. The first ones were actually very halting and awkward. Now 6 years on I can’t imagine life without God and don’t remember how I coped before I knew Him.

  4. vincentius says:

    The second most difficult thing to do in life is to believe in God
    The most difficult… is not to believe

  5. JohnE says:

    Amy Welborn had a good post recently with excerpts from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s book, Introduction to Christianity, in the post and in the comments. I think it would be a good read. Here’s a smaller excerpt:


    Just as the believer is choked by the salt water of doubt constantly washed into his mouth by the ocean of uncertainty, so the non-believer is troubled by doubts about his unbelief, about the real totality of the world which he has made up his mind to explain as a self-contained whole. He can never be absolutely certain of the autonomy of what he has seen and interpreted as a whole; he remains threatened by the question whether belief is not after all the reality which it claims to be. Just as the believer knows himself to be constantly threatened by unbelief, which he must experience as a continual temptation, so for the unbeliever faith remains a temptation and a threat to his apparently permanently closed world. In short, there is no escape from the dilemma of being a man. Anyone who makes up his mind to evade the uncertainty of belief will have to experience the uncertainty of unbelief, which can never finally eliminate for certain the possibility that belief may after all be the truth. It is not until belief is rejected that its unrejectability becomes evident.

  6. Scott W. says:

    I pray every day for the conversion of atheists. Got a first name or pseudonym we can use?

    “I’m attracted to the Catholic Church’s stand on certain issues, I’m not particularly interested in half-baked 1960’s anything-goes theology.”

    When even outsiders can see the absurdity of the latter, you know your movement is in trouble. :)

  7. rosebudsal says:

    Hi Father,

    Chiming in from North Central New Mexico. I will email you a list of a few priests that might be able to help your reader. My pastor, is very solid. He’s very well respected, but we can communicate better about this via email. I have a friend in Albuquerque who knows a lot of priests, so depending on your new readers location, we might have it covered. Our parishes vary from place to place and priest to priest, though I’ve never heard a message that I didn’t agree with or think wasn’t faithful. I’ll do my best to get you the information today.

    Look for an email coming from maria at cosmicink dot net later today, right now I have to get to work.

    Maria

  8. Lucia says:

    For those of us non-New Mexico readers, I’d like to highlight OVER AND OVER the statement Fr. Z. already highlighted in red: SEE WHAT A GOOD EXAMPLE CAN DO, my friends!!!

  9. Nancy Reyes says:

    A lot depends on where he lives in New Mexico…there are a lot of “new age” types in the north where ex californians live…

    The holiest churches are with the Pueblo Indians…and some of the churches that serve the old (i.e. 1600 )Mexican American population. My favorite church is in Tularosa, and they have 24 hour adoration chapel there…but I don’t know if their preaching is any good, since I would drive 50 miles to the chapel for adoration, but attend the local mass where I lived…

  10. John Enright says:

    I don’t know anything about New Mexico since I’ve never been west of Pittsburgh (which is a really beautiful City!) I can offer this advice to the atheistic writer to Fr. Z. It seems that you are a moral person struggling with evil. It reminds me very much of the struggles of St. Augustine, and you should look into his “Confessions.”

  11. Luke says:

    I didn’t know that atheists recognized “evil”

  12. Nick says:

    Thanks for the blogs, Father :)

  13. John Enright says:

    Luke:

    I certainly hope that you don’t mean to imply that person from New Mexico struggling to come to the truth is immoral. My comment was meant to support the writer so that he or she will enter the Church; your snide comment doesn’t help that, and it really doesn’t display Christian Charity to the original writer.

  14. Malta says:

    If the reader is in the Abq area he might want to reach the priest at San Ignacio.

  15. Tiny says:

    I’d recommend Msgr. Knox’s “The Belief of Catholics”, it has that bit on “telling the first lie”

  16. Irish says:

    I would suggest finding and talking with a priest of the Institute of Christ the King for a number of reasons: it sounds like the potential convert is forming an intellectual curiosity about Catholicism and I think any of the ICK priests would be able to discuss the faith on a intellectual level. Also, being steeped in the writings of St. Francis de Sales, ICK priests would be able to present the doctrine with the philosophy of “cook the truth in charity until it tastes sweet.” Plus, since many of the priests come from Europe and all attend the seminary in Europe (Italy), where atheism is very strong, they may have experience dealing with this type of conversion.

  17. Luke says:

    “Luke:

    I certainly hope that you don’t mean to imply that person from New Mexico struggling to come to the truth is immoral. My comment was meant to support the writer so that he or she will enter the Church; your snide comment doesn’t help that, and it really doesn’t display Christian Charity to the original writer.”

    No, I truly meant no disrespect or anything like it with my comment. I just truly did not know atheists believed something was evil. I guess I always associated “evil” as a religious term.

    Of course, I certainly hope this person discovers the Truth the Catholic Church has. If my comment is seen as in anyway interrupting that discovery, I hope Fr. Z erases my posts.

  18. Hettie B. says:

    How very exciting and impressive this letter is! May God bless and be with the letter-writer! I pray every day for the conversion of atheists (I’m sure many of us do), so this letter is particularly uplifting and encouraging. In turn, I would like to encourage the writer to keep seeking Truth–you’re doing an excellent job! I hope you do find a good, knowledgeable, and fatherly Catholic pastor to help you on your way. Meanwhile, please know that you’ve got lots of people surrounding you with prayers and wishing you well!

  19. John Enright says:

    Luke:

    Thank you for your response to my comment. Let’s pray together for this wandering soul who knows that things aren’t right in his or her life.

  20. UPDATE:

    How about South-Central New Mexico… Socorro area?

  21. rosebudsal says:

    Can’t help you there. Though the priest there used to be assigned to the Cathedral Basilica, but I never knew him. Socorro is the southern most part of the archdiocese of Santa Fe.